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If on your next visit to Le Cirque Signature in The Leela Mumbai you hear the strains of a mezzo soprano voice singing a passage from Aïda, it won’t be the music system of the restaurant; it will be the chef de-stressing! When Valentina Amati was growing up in Rimini, near Bologna, she could never make up her mind whether she wanted to be an opera singer or a chef. So she became both! Although restaurants and hotels are a family business, Valentina herself is more pre-occupied with the science of how ingredients behave with various cooking methods. The chunky potato chips she serves with her bistecca are a case in point. They are first boiled in salty water for 8 minutes, then shock cooled in the freezer for 30 minutes. Once they are fully dry, they are fried for 5 minutes at 140 degrees and then placed in the freezer until an order comes, whereupon, they are fried a la minute for 3 minutes at 180 degrees. This helps to break down the starch molecules by contracting them, so the potato chip is as dense as an Idaho potato.
The restaurant in USA where Valentina used to work had a modest consumption of 8 kg potatoes a week. By the time she left, it grew to a whopping 100 kgs a week, thanks to punters who visited specifically for the irresistible potatoes.
But this unusual chef has a unique way of managing her kitchen. The staff is not allowed to listen to any music except Italian classical. She can prove that they prepare their mise en place more effectively when they listen to the strains of Vivaldi and Pavarotti! So, it is bitter-sweet when she admits that many men don’t quite know how to handle a woman who is in charge.